INTRODUCTION TO MEN'S 80s FASHION TRENDS
Men's Fashion bloomed in the 80s, producing some of the most coveted silhouettes we see today. The decade saw new attitudes towards mens styling develop, from razor edge tailoring to bouffant hairdos. Read on as Truss explores everything Mens 80s Fashion and answers the questions: What did men wear in the 80s? What are the key 80s fashion brands that defined the era? What styles were popular in the 80s? And, ultimately how fashionable men dressed in the 80s.
MEN'S STYLE IN THE 80s
Excess, playfulness and sleek sexiness made the 1980s one of fashion's greatest eras for men's style. Menswear trends embraced new flattering proportions, bolder colour choices and the tropes of subcultures and classic characters.
Giani Versace, Hugo Boss and Giorgio Armani are menswear brands which dominated the tailoring scene in the 80s with more generous silhouettes and the offer of life well designed for all.
The Romanticism of the midwest cowboy saturated men's fashion in the 80s, due to a generation of men raised on spaghetti westerns, and John Travolta’s 1980 Romance Drama ‘Urban Cowboy’ influencing the mainstream. Levi’s and Diesel Jeans with Cuban-heeled boots were a common sight amongst casual dressers as well as fantastic western yolked shirts (a look that Raf Simons borrowed for his Calvin Klein 205w39nyc line in the late 2010s ).
NOTABLE MEN'S 80s FASHION BRANDS
Gianfranco Ferré and Missoni are Italian fashion houses which shared the casual elevated look we so often associate with Giorgio Armani during the 1980s. Missoni was famous for its colourful knitwear designs at the time, and both brands were producers of sleek formal menswear.
The 1980s saw the Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo’s Comme Des Garcons brand reshape menswear. In 1984 the Comme Des Garcons Homme Plus subline was initiated, offering 80s men more experimental oversized cuts.
The English designer Vivienne Westwood famously showed her first runway collection ‘Pirates’ in 1981. Designer Katherin Hamnett was a contemporary of Westwood, famous for her slogan t-shirts, and minimalist utilitarian bomber jackets in leather and denim amongst. Both designers developed an anti-authoritarian military aestheric in 80s era menswear.
Stone Island and C.P Company are the brainchild of renowned Italian sportswear designer Massimo Osti. The brands satisfied a Surge in demand for technical sportswear for casual dressing during the 80s, with their Tela Stella and Marina jackets.
80s MEN'S TROUSERS
Generally, a straight trouser silhouette was the order of the day for men’s fashion in the 80s, although a diversity of cuts – due to the array of subcultural movements of the time and a plethora of musical influences – meant that slim, spray-on, and wide silhouettes were also popular.
The birth of MTV had a significant impact on men's fashion in the 80s, especially on the younger generation for whom clubbing and queer culture was a key source of inspiration. The Baggy parachute pant style by Marithe Francois Girbaud is a key example of the type of trousers that MTV artists wore.
Wide front pleated chinos were a popular everyday trouser, with their cut borrowed from Zoot Suits and Oxford bags. Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Gap cornered the preppy style, with more avante-garde offerings from Comme Des Garcons.
Mick Jagger made a case for spray-on jeans, and tight-fitting leather trousers, for which Milanese house Fiorucci would be the first port of call.
Vivienne Westwood was the go-to designer for 80s Men's punk fashion. Her famous gingham bondage trousers are the quintessential punk trousers, along with tight ripped jeans and leather trousers.
80s MEN'S JEANS
Diesel, Calvin Klein, Versace and Girbaud dominated the men's designer jeans market throughout the 80s era of fashion. In 2016 Dr Anne Reimers, Fashion Theorist and a Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies, wrote that “The 1980s were also the era of designer jeans. Sexualized advertising campaigns were employed to convince consumers that they should pay more for a garment that had previously been a cheap staple of the American wardrobe, and Calvin Klein was at the forefront of this marketing revolution from the beginning,” in her article on the icon Brooke Shields.
Straight cuts were standard, with Levi’s 501 and 505 cut denim Jeans commonplace, paired with a tucked-in shirt and boots. Skinnier cuts were worn by fans of Rock, Glam Rock and Punk music, emulating the stars Mick Jagger and Marc Bolan.
Diesel’s 1980s ‘Modern Basics’ focused on “cut, quality and comfort”, with relaxed workwear cut designed to emulate the denim worn by modern cowboys and American labourers working out on the oil rigs.
The 80s marked a time of sartorial experimentation with denim which would go on to flourish in the 90s.
80s MEN'S JACKETS
Bomber Jackets were a huge trend in 80s men's fashion. The B-15 and MA-1 jackets by Avirex were made popular by the release of TopGun, and are a classic widely available garment today which have inspired the likes of Vetements and Raf Simons. Japanese designer Issey Miyake became as synonymous with the Bomber Jacket during the 80s as with his revolutionary pleats. Issey Skyline, a one-off collection to promote the 1981 release of the Nissan Skyline R30, produced iconic asymmetric bomber jackets in satin and leather.
Denim truckers and Leather Jackets were made popular by silver-screen stars and celebrities during the 80s, found in more casual rocker styles and conversely sartorial silhouettes.
The Paninaro were an Italian subculture whose 80s fashion sense blueprinted modern casual style. With a propensity for ski-wear, Moncler Puffer jackets and Stone Island technical hooded jackets were a common sight amongst the Paninaro.
80s MEN'S SUITS
A Giorgio Armani suit was the pinnacle of men's tailoring in the 80s, with its enlarged proportions, relaxed fit and casual elegance. High-waisted trousers cut wide with pleated fronts are now characteristically 80s. The 1980 crime drama American Gigolo, starring Richard Gere, was costumed by Armani totally.
Miami Vice cemented the rolled-up jacket sleeve trend of the 80s, as did English rock band Duran Duran who favoured a crisper turn-up look to that of Don Johnson’s cop character James "Sonny" Crockett.
Large peak lapels, unstructured shoulders and waists nipped in by high-waisted trousers are the signs of an 80s suit; in some circles garish pastel colour palettes too, although Armani and Boss favoured more muted tones.
MEN'S 80s SHOES, SNEAKERS AND BOOTS
Cowboy boots, sneakers and going sockless in dress shoes: Trends in shoes and boots throughout the 1980s were diverse.
Run D.M.C’s 1986 ‘My Adidas’ spiked interest in white superstars at a time when wearing sneakers in daily life was gradually becoming more acceptable. The Reebok Club-c and Converse Chuck Taylor were also popular silhouettes in the 1980s.
With a fascination towards all things Western came the cowboy boot, which would be worn both with the trousers tucked in or left stacked over the sleek silhouetted boot. The Cowboy boot has seen a resurgence in popularity recently in the post-sneaker era we’re entering. Isabel Marant and Saint Laurent are designer brands who are proponents of the style.
The network television show Miami Vice also sparked a trend in going sockless after its lead was presented wearing white leather loafers.
80s MEN'S SHIRTS
Relaxed-fitting cutaway collar shirts were the gold standard of 1980s men's fashion. Rejecting the oversized collars of the 70s, the brands Moschino, Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry amongst many more opted for smaller collars and roomier silhouettes which would billow above the belt line.
Pinstripe and Pencil Stripe patterns were in, with blue and grey on white being the most classic, and more garish colour schemes including pink and bright yellow being popular also.
MEN'S 80s HAIRSTYLES
The key to men's hairstyles in the 80s was volume.
The “Armani Cut” was popularised by you guessed it: Giorgio Armani. During the 1980s, and into the 90s, his male models sported mid-length curls brushed back. It was sometimes short on the sides, either tapered or shaved down to a low grade, even to the skin. Whether slicked back or styled in loose curls, it was always long on top and worn with Italian flare.
Perming men's hair was a trend carried over from the 60s and 70s. The Rock bands Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and Whiteclaw donned wild loose perms throughout the decade, cut choppy in a grown-out mod cut sort of style.
The Pompadour, which looked as ridiculous as it sounds – though Morrisey seemed to pull it off – was a fashionable nod back to Rockabilly style during the 80s. Rick Asterly still rocks a rendition of his iconic haircut to this day.
The Mullet is perhaps the most memorable of the 80s hairstyles, a style more recognisable on the heads of rugby lads than on the fashion savvy nowadays. The 80s mullets of Brad Pitt and David Bowie are some great examples of the classic hairstyle, with stars like Patrick Swayze and Billy Ray Cyrus donning more conservative renditions. Anybody who was somebody during the 80s probably wore the mullet at some point, maybe even your dad.
Feathered hair was a unisex style which bled over from the 70s. It can be long or short, characterised by whispyness all over left by the razor cutting technique used in favour of scissors. Mick Jagger, Tom Cruise and James Spader famously wore feathered hair, a style which can be combined with the other cuts mentioned above. Princess Dianna too is an excellent example.
80s MEN'S FASHION ACCESSORIES
Narrow Ties, Wide Belts and statement sunglasses adorned the 80s man with adornments firmly back on the table for the era, essential for punctuating every outfit.
Whilst going tieless became a statement in itself in the 80s, Duran Duran popularised skinny ties in men's dressing, opting for a sleeker look than that of the 70s.
Chunky two-tone watches became the ‘it’ wristpiece of the 1980s, with Tag Heur and Rolex producing timepieces to adorn any Wall Street busybody, perfect with an Armani suit. A Gold watch especially was very much in. When talking watches, it would be remiss not to mention the Casio CFX - 400 calculator watch for the techy among us.
Mono-Lens ‘Cyclops’ Sunglasses for Skiing, Cycling and Glacier traversing, Rayban Wayfarers, and John Lennon's round sunglasses were era-defining examples of men's 80s eyewear.
The 80s saw a surge in male piercings, with jewellery becoming a more acceptable form of self-expression. George Michael of Wham popularised the hoop earring, with many men opting to pierce both lobes. Actor Johnny Depp took to wearing multiple earrings throughout the 80s.
MEN'S 80s FASHION TODAY
Men’s 80s fashion is seeing another resurgence, with Diesel’s Glen Martens citing the era as a primary source of inspiration for the brand's latest offering. 80s clothing styles, hairstyles and lifestyle items permeate the current fashion landscape.
RESOURCES FOR REFERENCING 80s MENSWEAR
For those seeking additional information on 80s menswear, there are several resources available. These sources provide in-depth knowledge, insights, and detailed references for 80s Fashion.
1. TRUSS's App is a database that contains thousands of historic 80s menswear items, all identified by their year of release. This is a great place to find 80s menswear references for fancy dress or design. It is even possible to purchase 80s menswear through the app.
2. Vogue has documented fashion's countless runway shows over the years and whilst footage remains sparse from this time period, photography can be found although menswear rarely hit the runway in these days.
3. Films. A simple resource, but any film set in the 80s have large departments who ensure that styles adhered to the time. We recccomend:
(i) This is England
(iii) Dallas Buyers Club
By utilising these resources, you can deepen your knowledge of 80s fashion for men.